No. Probably not. I hope not. No. Please.
On July 4th, everyone who still thinks that “Why don’t we just elect Vermin Supreme?” is still top tier political humor in 2020 received a gift: Kanye West announced on Twitter that he is running for President. This is nothing new; fans of the Chicago rapper are very familiar with Kanye West’s presidential “aspirations”. He’s tweeted as early as 2016 that he would be running for President in 2020, and after a conversation with President Trump, he implied that while he still planned to run for POTUS, his run would be pushed back until after Trump had left office. On “Facts (Charlie Heat Version)” off his 2016 album The Life of Pablo, Kanye lets the world know:
“On the field I’m over-reckless, on my Odell Beckham/2020, imma run the whole election, yah!”
Kanye West running for President of the United States, on face value, makes no sense, which is why, in the context of 2020, it actually makes perfect sense. The culmination of a four year gag by the guy who wrote the lines “Let me hit it raw like fuck the outcome/Ay, none of us would be here without cum” into a legitimate third party challenge in a presidential election would fit snugly into the 2020 timeline as we’ve experienced it so far. Whether or not Kanye West is actually mounting a presidential campaign, or Kanye is just being Kanye again, a number of people online seem to believe that he will actually be on the ballot in November, and could potentially serve as a spoiler to Democratic Nominee Joe Biden. So it’s important to clear the air and say that, no, Kanye West probably isn’t running for President, and won’t appear on your ballot. At least not this year.
Kanye West is as much a provocateur as he is a musician. West has a history of making statements and vague promises, be it album releases, video games, collaborations, etc., that never come to pass. Sometimes he will commit to an idea and eventually scrap it, as he’s done with several unreleased albums, and sometimes he was never really committed to the bit at all. He has a distinct talent for getting the goat of the public, and has been doing so for the last 20 years, even as the cultural and political landscape have drastically changed around him. In addition to the possibility of his presidential run actually being a gag, meme, Kanye-ism, however you want to classify it, there is an imminent, and confirmed, Kanye West project on the horizon for which Kanye may have wanted to grab some attention. An album currently titled God’s Country, the follow-up to his 2019 Gospel-Rap album Jesus is King, has been at the forefront of Kanye West’s return to social media, included in his “West Day Ever” campaign, which eventually culminated in the release of the first single off of God’s Country, “Wash Us in the Blood”. What better way to create publicity for yourself, and by proxy, your new music, than to announce a run for President of the United States? It’s not a traditional method of album promotion, but Kanye West is not necessarily a traditional artist.
Perhaps the philosophy of Kanye West can best be summed up in a line from “I Thought About Killing You”, the opener from his 2018 album ye:
“Just say it out loud, see how it feels/ People say ‘don’t say this, don’t say that’/Just say out loud, just to see how it feels”
There’s really no better explanation for Kanye’s antics than that. Without any explicit moral intention, or intention to follow up on anything, Kanye West will feel, think, or wonder something, and blast it out into the world, just to see how it feels. Saying that you’re going to run for President, especially if you say it on Kanye’s huge social media soapbox, probably makes you feel something. It probably makes you feel good! But it doesn’t mean that he has any intention to follow through with it. Given his track record of actually living up to claims he makes online and through his music (besides fixing “Wolves”, which he did end up doing), Kanye’s 2020 presidential run doesn’t really warrant much of a second thought, or at least any shift in any candidate’s electoral strategy.
Can Kanye run for President this year? Sure. To get on the ballot, you need to obtain a certain number of signatures on a petition, the number differing per state, and file your campaign with the FEC. Kanye, who is married into the plutocratic Kardashian family, certainly has the money to mount a formidable campaign, so if he really wanted to run for President, he could do so, though if he wanted to run in 2020, it would be in a limited capacity. If he wanted to run a winning presidential campaign, it’s probably too late for that. The deadline to get on the ballot has already passed in several states, including states any candidate would need to win to be able to pass the 270 electoral votes required by the Constitution to win the Presidency; the deadline to file for President as an independent in New York, Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Indiana, Maine, New Mexico and North Carolina has already passed. That’s 138 electoral votes that would be unavailable to Mr. West, and the fact that the filing date in his home state of Illinois in particular has passed would probably be a boon to the West 2020 Presidential Campaign. He would need to collect 200,000 signatures by the end of the month to get on the ballot in California- sure, it’s Kanye West, one of the biggest names in America, but collecting signatures on a petition is not an easy task, and would require a legitimate ground game that would cost a lot of money. So, given that he has not actually filed a campaign with the FEC, and that by this time next month, the filing date to get on the ballot would have passed in a number of states that totals 276 electoral votes, Kanye West probably doesn’t have much of a path to establishing a successful presidential campaign. If he wanted to qualify for the ballot in every state in which the deadline has not passed, he would need to start now, and it would require an extreme amount of focused energy and money. Given that Kanye is currently wrapped up in the release of a new album, a TV series with Kid Cudi, and a collaboration with GAP, among other projects, it’s unlikely that he has the time, or even the desire, to mount an independent presidential campaign.
But what if he did it? What if Kanye dropped all of his current projects, decided that he was the person that America needed in this turbulent era, and set out on a determined campaign to get himself on the ballot on every state that was still accepting independent presidential candidates, and succeeded? Who would it hurt electorally? Would he get anywhere? Would Kim Kardashian have a shot at becoming the First Lady of the United States? Let’s say that Kanye does mount as large of a campaign as he is currently able to. It would depend on his messaging and electoral strategy, but if he had any electoral impact, he would probably make a dent in Joe Biden’s Black support, which is crucial to his coalition that he currently has set up to best Donald Trump in November. There aren’t many Trump voters, the vast majority of whom are older and white, and probably aren’t huge Kanye fans, who would be swayed to switch their vote from Trump to Kanye. Any popularity Kanye has with the Trump base comes from his recent pledged allegiance to the President, and mounting a campaign against Trump would likely sour whatever goodwill Kanye has with the MAGA base. This is all conjecture, but any base that Kanye would consolidate would probably be comprised of young voters, and potentially Black voters under 45, both of whom are traditionally inclined to vote Democrat, but have had reservations about Joe Biden as the alternative to Trump. So Democrats would have a reason to be wary of a Kanye West 2020 run, should it materialize, although it probably won’t. And if it did, Kanye would be locked out of key states that are crucial to Democrat’s electoral path to victory, such as New York, Illinois, California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Maybe, if he really wanted to, Kanye could start a write-in campaign, but, again- I really don’t think Kanye is actually planning to run for President. At least not yet. Kanye is probably just doing what Kanye does: saying whatever pops into his head, and using controversy to create buzz in anticipation of the release of new music and merchandise.
So, if you find yourself drifting into political conversation with friends or find yourself face to face with the Vermin Supreme guy whose involvement in politics only goes so far as sharing Avengers: Endgame Joe Biden memes and saying “No matter who wins in November, America loses”, and President Kanye starts to bubble up as a topic, feel free to let them know that they’ll probably have to wait until 2024 to cast their vote for Kanye West.